By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday, 10th August 1994:
DAP calls on Mahathir to allow public rallies to let the whole world know that Malaysian democracy has matured to ensure ‘free, fair and clean’ general elections
The proposal by the Secretary of the Election Commission, Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman that public rallies be allowed in the next general elections so that candidates and political parties can communicate with the voters and explain their manifestos and plans is most timely and welcome.
DAP calls on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Mahathir Mohamed to allow public rallies to be held and let the whole world know that Malaysian democracy has matured to ensure ‘free, fair and clean’ general elections.
Recently, South Africa held its general elections where Nelson Mandela emerged as President. In the South African general elections, public rallies were permitted. Surely, South Africa should be learning from Malaysia on democratic practices rather than Malaysia trailing behind South Africa, as on the issue of public rallies in general elections!
From Merdeka to 1974, through four general elections, public rallies were allowed although the country faced external threat and internal challenge in the form of the Indonesian confrontation and the communist armed insurrection.
Despite such grave threats to the security of the country and the proclamations of emergency, public rallies were allowed to be held.
In the ensuing four general elections in 1978, 1982, 1986 and 1990, public rallies were banned.
This was because in 1977, the Police warned that 1978 was the 30th anniversary of the Malayan Communist Party armed insurrection, and the security forces expected major security incidents in various parts of the country, like bombs and urban guerrilla attacks, to coincide with this MCP 30th anniversary.
As part of the security precautions, public rallies were banned.
In the event, the 30th MCP armed insurrection anniversary came and went in 1978 without a single incident – but the ban on public rallies were never lifted.
IN 1989, the MCP laid down their arms in the Haadyai agreement with the Malaysian Government – but the government had not lifted its ban on public rallies.
Whether public rallies are allowed or not is an important critera as to whether a general elections is ‘free, fair and clean’.
There can be no security reason whatsoever for the continued ban on public rallies, and the authorities should have more confidence in the maturity of the Malaysian people who would not allow anyone to incite them to acts of violence and subversion at public rallies.
In any event, there are more than adequate laws in the country for the police to act against anyone trying to incite the people to violence.
The Police should realise that apart from its responsibility to uphold law and order, it has a higher responsibility to defend and promote democracy – and it must not sacrifice the latter in the name for the former, as in banning pubic rallies when there is no security justification whatsoever.
It will be a blot on Malaysia’s record on democracy and human rights if neigbouring countries in South East Asia imposing the ban on public rallies.